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  Tuesday, September 27, 2016  Home > Autism > Information > Processing Speed of the Brain
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Processing Speed of the Brain

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Paul Novak

There are dozens of research papers and anecdotal stories about the relationship between learning difficulties and brain processing speed. For example: the commercially available program  Fast ForWord was developed in 1996 by a team of neuroscientists at the University of California to improve the reading levels of remedial students. The program exercises ran for one hour per day, five days per week for eight weeks – 40 hours of therapy training. At the end of the 40 hours all of the students were reading from 1 ½ to 2 grade level higher than when the started the program.

After purchasing a copy of the program (for $1,000) and trying to put my daughter through the exercises I quickly realized that this program was far beyond the comprehension of a 5 or 6 year old. The next thing that I discovered was that the exercises had nothing to do with teaching reading skills. There were no phonics exercises, word recognition exercises or comprehension training tests. All of the exercises involved focus, attention and processing speed of the brain. After 40 hours, just about everyone showed noticeable improvement in their reading speed and comprehension. As a side note some parents reported to the neuroscientists at the University of California that after completing the program their child had been cured of their dyslexia or their autistic child showed improved social skills.

 When I asked one of these scientists “Why aren’t you marketing this program as a possible cure for dyslexia or autism?”, their response was “We don’t know why it works”.

My response to him was, “Mom doesn’t care why”.  14 years later and they still don’t know why it works.

 The more convincing research was done at the University of Missouri where a researcher was able to predict with 92.5% accuracy which children as young as 2 years were autistic. His test was objective, passive and very simple. He placed the child in a darkened room, turned on a bright light and measured the time that it took for his pupils to constrict. (No explanation was given as to how long was too long) but his accuracy was impressive.)  When you consider that the function of the pupils adjusting to changes in light levels is an involuntary reaction of the brain and can be considered a measure of its processing speed, the relationship and importance of brain processing speed cannot be ignored.

 If computer games and exercises can improve reading skills, cure dyslexia and affect social behavior of autistic children simply by increasing the processing speed of the brain, then this therapy should be tailored for every age level and administered routinely.

 When I could not find any “Brain Game” type programs that were suitable for a 4 year old, I decided that my only option was to develop my own program. I experimented with flash cards to determine what stimulus worked best. When I found that a picture of a dog or a cat was easily recognized every time, I moved to computerize my idea. I hired a computer programmer to develop the program to my design specifications. And after several hours of trial and error testing we finalized STIMBRAIN.

 The program uses three similar but different exercises to measure the brain’s processing speed both in relation to reaction time and cognitive time. The fourth exercise is specifically designed to use focus and concentration to increase the processing speed of the brain by flashing images of a dog or cat onto the display at a steadily faster rate. The beauty of this program is that it records and displays the child’s performance for each exercise and the parent or teacher can easily see improvement in each area over time. Measurable results are critical to maintaining interest and enthusiasm. 

 STIMBRAIN is available at:  at a modest price.

 I use the example of going to a health club to build muscles. After many hours of strenuous muscle exercises, if a person does not see noticeable improvement in his body, he will quickly lose interest and eventually stop going to the club. However, the brain responds more quickly to stimulus and exercise. After as little as 40 hours of exercise you will see noticeable and measurable improvement. A small sacrifice to make for a lifetime of benefits.

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